Wednesday, December 6, 2017

#VegasHalloween (day 4): The worst day of the year

If you really love a holiday or a day of celebration, the day after can be a bit of a let down.

Yeah, the spirit of Christmas lingers on after Dec. 25, but for most Hallmark occasions, there's little happening after the fact. For some folks, that's fine. For me, there's a sense of disappointment when Halloween is over. With the exception of the years when Halloween is on a Friday, the only Halloween leftovers to be found come Nov. 1 are discounted decorations and candy, and a bunch of pumpkins left sitting on the front steps of houses in the neighborhood.

Given how anti-climatic Halloween night is for me, I'm glad that I've spend five of the past seven Halloween nights in Vegas. Vegas provides a big flourish for Halloween, bigger than I'd get on a Tuesday night in Minnesota, making it an appropriate way to end a season of silliness and scariness.

Having spent eight hours downtown and not getting to bed until 3 a.m., it was a slow morning for us at Tahiti Village. When we finally got around to cleaning up, we didn't have a simple egg and bagel breakfast. We decided that Wednesday was our day to put miles on the rental car, have a late breakfast and violate one of the Five Hundy by Midnight podcast rules. We drove to the Suncoast Hotel and Casino for breakfast at Du-Par's.

What rule did we violate? Co-host Tim, in his guidebook published a couple of years ago, explains that it doesn't matter how extraordinary a meal might be. When he's in Vegas, he's not going to spend 20 minutes traveling by car for a breakfast when he can get a good meal at his casino, or next door to his casino. I agree with the logic, to a point.

Regardless, I never experienced the glory of the Du-Par's pancakes when the California institution operated a restaurant at downtown's Golden Gate. I like pancakes, but it was never a priority. Unfortunately, when talking about the places that Vegas fanatics love, it came up in a conversation, and my girlfriend decided she had to find out what the hype was about. That was a couple of years ago. Since that time the Golden Gate location closed. So she wanted to experience Du-Par's before the Suncoast location closed, and this was the trip to do it.

We both ordered a stack of pancakes, sans meats or any other add on. They were as big and filling as advertised by everybody on the planet. And they were better than any pancake I had ever consumed at any restaurant or church fundraiser. They live up to the hype, no doubt. Would I drive 20+ minutes from Tahiti Village to Suncoast again? Nope. I tried them, I understand the hype. Unless I have another reason to travel that direction, I'm not stopping at Suncoast again.

There was a benefit to hitting up Suncoast the day after Halloween.

When I dropped my girlfriend off at a nail salon on day 2 while I went to the haunted attraction, she got long, black, fake fingernails to go with her with costume. She doesn't do long, fake fingernails, and found them to be highly difficult to live with for 36+ hours. For example, she never considered how she would take her contacts out with long fingernails. She found a Youtube video with tips on how to do it, so crisis averted, but even using her cellphone was a challenge with those nails.

While she could have gone anywhere to get the fake nails shortened to something manageable, we had to pass the exit we hit on day 2 for the salon and haunted attraction. So we hit it again and went back to the same strip mall salon.

Since we were going to be there for a while, I decided to indulge, as well. I got a pedicure. I do a terrible job of trimming my toenails. They always look mangled by the time I'm done. And they were due to be cut, so I paid to have them done.

And what a deal that was! I have had a pedicure once, about five years ago. I knew what to expect, more or less, and the woman doing my pedicure was thorough and outstanding. She did foot massaging in addition to all the work on my nails, and the chair I sat in was very relaxing. It was one of those massage chairs, so that was a nice bonus. And as I sat there in the chop shop, on a pleasant Vegas Wednesday, with the doors of the chop shop open, I looked to my left, and through the windows I could see the Stratosphere off in the distance. I loved it.

I knew to expect the service to cost about $30. The woman spent more than 30 minutes working on my nails, so $30 seemed reasonable. And as I stood at the register to pay, the cashier told me the total was $23. I was amazed. That was one hell of a deal. I paid by credit card, and tipped $7, as I expected to pay at least $30 before the tip.

The cashier asked to see my ID since I paid by credit card. She was surprised to see I was from Minnesota. This ain't a place that sees a lot of tourists, I'm sure. She asked me if it was cold back in Minnesota. I told her it snowed the past Friday, which it did for a while, even if it didn't last a day.

By mid-afternoon we were back at Tahiti Village for pool and hot tub time. As the sun started to set and the warmth went with it, we cleaned up and headed to The Cosmopolitan for dinner. We don't spend much time on the strip, and we don't dine at many buffets, but my girlfriend had wanted to try a high-end buffet. The Cosmo had a 2-for-1 coupon in the Las Vegas Advisor coupon book for its buffet, Wicked Spoon, so we gave it a try.

First off, we had to pay for parking. It was my first time paying for parking on the Vegas strip. I wasn't excited about it, but I wasn't going to spend an hour trying to circumvent the parking fee by walking a mile or riding the bus up the strip. I will say this, the red light/green light system and tabulation of available parking spaces is slick.

We went inside, signed up for player cards and headed to the buffet. It's about $45 per person for dinner on a Wednesday night.

The food is well done, overall. They had pre-split crab legs, so it was easy feast upon my second-favorite Vegas delicacy. They serve many of their entrees in single-portion dishes, which is a nice touch. I tried a variety of them and found most to be very satisfying. I had a couple of slices of their prime rib, too. It's my favorite Vegas indulgence, but I wouldn't go back to Wicked Spoon for it. The first trip to the carving station produced a satisfactory, thin slice. On my second trip the cut I had wasn't as good. If I go there again I'll certainly have a slice, but it didn't dazzle me like I expected given the Spoon's reputation.

Obligatory photo of the buffet sign.
I can't tell you what's in that little dish, perhaps it's the fancy mac and cheese, but on the right is one of my favorite Vegas delicacies, crab legs. The only drawback to buffet crab legs in Vegas, they're often served chilled. But good crab meat and hot butter is never a losing combination. 

I don't love sushi, but I don't hate it. I stick to the basics and had one serving at Wicked Spoon.

Fancy desserts are tasty at Wicked Spoon, but not to die for. 

Overall I was highly satisfied with my meal at $22.50 per person. Our server was prompt in clearing our plates, but not very proactive when it came to refilling my beverage. Oh well, he saved me a buck on my tip.

Plenty of fancy desserts available at the Spoon, as you might expect. I sampled a few. They were very good, but I didn't fall in love with any of them.

We did gamble a bit at Cosmo after dinner. I dropped $40 in a Top Dollar slot machine, and although I did get the bonus twice, my bonus offers weren't much more than $10 at best. I was not impressed by the machine.

My girlfriend had read about the Verbena, a unique drink they serve at Chandelier. So we made it a point to venture over and try it. I won't try to describe it if you don't know what it is, but it's a unique cocktail sensation I've never had anywhere else. It was $16 per drink, I think, and that's typical for cocktails at Chandelier. It was worth trying.

I'm not exactly Cosmo material, but it was fun to clean up and spend a few hours among the beautiful people, watching the parade of well-funded men and women parade to and from. Cosmo is a nice place and I like it. Perhaps one day I'll forgo the vow of poverty I took when I chose my career and will be able to afford to drop $100 or more on a few rounds of drinks without thinking twice about it.

Some day.

Which way is up? I'm not sure, but it's a photo I took at The Chandelier inside The Cosmopolitan. I won't be winning any photography awards any time soon, clearly.

Funny thing about my brief cameo at Chandelier. I looked toward the bar and saw a woman walking away. I didn't get a head-on look, but I got a profile view. I was sure it was Marci, a frequent visitor who shares a lot of pictures and stories of her Vegas travels through Facebook groups dedicated to Vegas travel. I know several names and have seen pictures of the most prolific contributors to these groups, but I wouldn't expect to see or recognize them while wandering about. I didn't chase the woman down as she was walking away from my area, but I checked on Facebook that night, and sure enough I spotted Marci, one of the frequent contributor to a group called Talk Las Vegas. It was like spotting a celebrity.

We left Cosmo before four hours had passed. I paid $7 for parking. Not the end of the world, and I likely would have been ready to leave even had parking been free, but the fact that the base rate for parking increases after four hours was all the incentive I needed to move along. Who knows how my night might have been different had I not been paying for parking. I was content with paying $7 in order to park for dinner and a cocktail, but I didn't want to pay more than that. No big deal, I'm not Cosmo material anyway.

Our next stop was Orleans, the casino I liked staying at during the past several years. Unfortunately those comped weeknights that my girlfriend and I received two years earlier have stopped coming. We spent five nights at the Orleans in September 2015, and four of those nights were comped. We paid for the fifth, ate meals on the property, drank beers at the pool and charged it all to our room. And at that point they stopped comping me weeknight rooms. I don't get it.

I was disappointed on this Wednesday night to find that all of their $5 tables were auto-shuffle machines. I swear they were. I looked, and looked again. I use to be able to count on $5 double-deck pitch games, but not that night. I was highly disappointed.

I used that as a sign that it was my night to play Ultimate Texas Hold 'Em. I had good luck over the course of a couple of hours, winning $150 on $5 play. I cashed out and used a $10 match play to win a $10 spin on roulette. After tipping a few dollars, I finished my night at Orleans up $166.

We were on the road back to Tahiti Village around midnight, early enough to close out our night with a visit to the hot tub.

It was symbolically one of the saddest days of the year for me, but it turned out to be a pretty good one. Thank you, Vegas.

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